An official with the Food and Nutrition Service at the federal Department of Agriculture was questioned at a Congressional hearing over the potential unintended consequences of his office's proposed SNAP regulation, which would substantially, and unnecessarily, increase the requirements SNAP retailers must meet.
The proposed rule, which NATSO summarized for members would require SNAP retailers to stock and offer for sale a larger quantity of "staple food" items. Furthermore, it would narrow the definition of "staple food" item in a manner that would require many NATSO members wishing to redeem SNAP benefits a number of items for which their customers have not expressed a demand.
NATSO members play an important role in the SNAP program, especially in areas where there are few other locations for financially challenged Americans to purchase food. It was a positive development, therefore, when last week both Democrats and Republicans questioned an official responsible for proposing the new enhanced retailer requirements.
Reps. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) both said that the Department of Agriculture's proposal could result in the entire convenience store industry -- including stores operated by travel plaza owners -- exiting the SNAP program. They specifically expressed concern with a proposed provision eliminating any multi-ingredient item (such as macaroni and cheese or vegetable soup) from qualifying as a "staple food" for purposes of retailer eligibility.
The proposed rule is part of a multi-year effort to try and require SNAP beneficiaries to purchase -- and SNAP retailers to sell -- a larger quantity of healthy items. NATSO is actively participating in the rulemaking process to ensure that its members can continue being a crucial food source for economically disadvantaged Americans.
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